As The Art Newspaper went to press, the New York-based dealer, Larry Gagosian, was set to open a 12,500-square-foot gallery in Britannia Street, near London’s King Cross Station, with 10 new paintings and one sculpture by Cy Twombly (until 31 July).
The scale of Mr Gagosian’s operations—he now has huge galleries in New York, Los Angeles, and London—is more that of an international museum than a private dealer and the new white cube in Britannia Street, converted from a former garage by architects Caruso St John, will enable him to display monumental work by the likes of Richard Serra, whose massive steel sculptures are so difficult and expensive to transport that he has never had a solo show in London.
In the run-up to the opening, Mr Gagosian recruited Robin Vousden, for 18 years a pillar of the Anthony D’Offay Gallery, to join Stefan Ratibor, previously head of Christie’s Germany, Mollie Dent- Brocklehurst (from Gagosian New York), and Mark Francis (also ex-D’Offay) as director. They will search for new European buyers for the American artists represented by the gallery but will also help Gagosian use the Britannia Street gallery as a conduit to American collectors of British art. So, which British artists is Gagosian likely to court?
Unlike most contemporary dealers who cultivate young talent and then reap the rewards when the artists’ reputations are established, Gagosian is only interested in selling the work of artists who have already made it big in the international art world, “guaranteed money spinners,” as one dealer described them.
Even artists who are critically successful do not always marry well with the Gagosian Gallery. Susan Hiller, a highly esteemed, but not so commercial, London and Berlin-based artist whose installations are currently on view at BALTIC in Gateshead (until 18 July) has recently switched her allegiance from Gagosian UK to the Timothy Taylor Gallery.
Indeed, there are only a handful of British artists who meet the Gagosian criteria. They include Rachel Whiteread (who joined Gagosian in the UK last year), Anish Kapoor, Sir Anthony Caro, and Damien Hirst. Of these, Hirst already has a profitable working relationship with Gagosian, who organised a hugely successful solo show for the artist in New York.
Damien Hirst has been represented by Jay Jopling of London’s White Cube for the last decade. Hirst is so hot, and consequently, so powerful that he is believed to negotiate with Larry Gagosian directly, and when the New York dealer sells work by the artist, White Cube does not receive a cut.
As the finishing touches were being placed on the Britannia Street space, the much smaller Gagosian Gallery in Heddon Street was showing photographs produced by the photographer David Bailey with Damien Hirst, an exhibition described by one dealer as, “a blatant statement of intent”. It remains to be seen whether the Britannia Street gallery will lead to any top-level defections from other London dealers.
The inaugural Cy Twombly show in Britannia Street is followed by a Jeff Koons exhibition, the artist’s first in London for 10 years.